Legislative publicity offices distributed a news release today that said the state was saving almost $8 million a year under legislation that makes it easier to seek Medicaid coverage for inmates of the Department of Correction.
A 2013 bill by Rep. Micah Neal and Sen. Jon Woods allows the Department of Correction and Department of Community Correction to designate a representative to make Medicaid applications on behalf of inmates. It’s being done by Correct Care Solutions, the prisons’ contract health care provider. This has proved more successful than when it was left to Medicaid-eligible inmates or their families to complete the paperwork.
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The news release said the change could save $76 million for the state over 10 years.
I’ve asked — and Rep. Neal says he’ll try to dig up — where this change leaves the state and federal taxpayers overall on prison health care expenditures. That is, are the state savings merely off-loaded on the federal government? Neal says his primary concern, of course, is the state budget.
I don’t disagree, but I am reminded of the great private option debate, where some opponents opposed the Medicaid expansion on the ground that it was an expansion of spending however you sliced it. It’s worth noting that the Tea Partyers DID vote for putting prisoners on Medicaid. This piece of legislation had no opposition. It remains unclear where sentiment will fall on continuing expanded Medicaid for free citizens of Arkansas. The sponsors of this legislation, to their credit, backed the private option expansion.
It could be, by the way, that all-Medicaid coverage is cheaper than a system in which the state alone pays for some inmates to the care provider.
Neal noted that he’d also passed legislation that had eased the burden for county jails in paying for medical care for state prisoners being held in county lockups. The cost burden shifts to the state immediately now for a state prisoner.